January 12, 2022 1:19:53 pm
In the Pleistocene epoch — a period between 2.6 million and 11,700 years ago — a meteor crashed in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra and formed the Lonar Lake, one of the few such craters on earth.
At an exhibition, titled Comets, Meteors, Asteroids, organised by the Pune-based Jyotirvidya Parisanstha (JVP), the oldest association of amateur astronomers in India, a handmade model of the Lonar Lake was one of the prime attractions. Among the other handmade displays were a space telescope and spacecraft. The exhibition was held from January 7 to 9.
“JVP was founded on August 22, 1944, and, since 1995, we have been organising exhibitions on topics such as Mars exploration, the Moon exploration, space stations and Indian observatories to create awareness among people. We encourage our members, who are mostly school and college students, to make models for the exhibition. This not only helps the public understand the concept better, it is also a learning process for volunteers as they have to prepare rigorously to answer questions of the public,” said Sagar Gokhale, Honorary Secretary of JVP.
There was a distinct buzz as crowds stood around volunteers to hear about concepts of astronomy in the exhibition. The information ranged from how 3,743 comets have been discovered till now, to why shooting stars burn due to air drag and where one can find an Asteroid belt.
A working model of a comet showed how the tail is formed when it approaches the sun. Another working model was that of ‘asteroid occultation’. It is the phenomenon where researchers determine the shape, size, and other characteristics of an asteroid when it passes in front of a star. Animated videos were shown on a projector on how NASA’s ‘Deep Impact’ mission successfully studied the interior of the comet ‘Tempel 1’.
The youngest volunteer in the exhibition, 13-year-old Devashish Sarnaik, said he has been associated with JVP since 2016 and considers Elon Musk as his role model. Another volunteer, Prajakta Khaty, an 18-year-old first-year engineering student said that she wants to explore satellite communication as her career ahead.
Gokhale added, “JVP also organises an ‘Overnight Star party’ which is a monthly programme where once a month, on a Saturday close to the new moon, we take 100 participants 50-60 km away from Pune to observe planets, stars, constellations and other heavenly bodies through their telescope.”
On comets, he said, “Nobody has discovered a comet from the Indian soil. So, we have also announced prize money of Rs 1 lakh if any comet is discovered in India.”
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